Sunday, February 15, 2009

AToC - Prologue Recap and Stage 1 Preview - Davis (Phinney) to Santa (Maglia) Rosa

The 2009 Amgen Tour of California has officially begun and looks strikingly similar to last year. Fabian Cancellara continues to perform the best Motorcycle impersonation, Levi Leipheimer shows that he is firing and Slipstream narrowly misses another win. Yup, pretty much like 2008.

Although, after viewing the recorded VS coverage I did find some other interesting things to note. For example, did you know that Lance Armstrong had cancer and came back to win the Tour de France? I was not aware of that. It's a good thing the VS producers dusted off that video they made in 2000 and got me up to speed.

I'm all for fighting for a good cause and referencing a truly remarkable comeback tale but seriously, does ANYONE not know this story by now? Instead of running old footage that everyone in the English-speaking world has seen, it would have been very nice to have perhaps seen some of his recent work with the Trek-Livestrong U-23 Team or something that speaks to his current position and the future of the sport.

While it was unfortunate that most of the coverage was rehashed from the Tour of California Preview show the week before, there was some interesting new material. For example, the clip on Mark Cavendish was interesting, even though you couldn't really hear him over the Gaelic festival music blasting over the dialogue. I'm still not sure if he lives in a barn on the Isle of Man or not but he apparently likes cereal, has a pretty cool striped bathrobe and an awesome golden retriever.

Anyway, they did end up actually showing some of the racing and it was encouraging to see many of the names in the top 25 - shown below:
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank                                       4.32.9 (50.294 km/h)
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0.01.2
3 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0.02.7
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.02.8
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo TestTeam 0.03.1
6 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.03.4
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.04.1
9 Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Slipstream 0.04.2
10 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0.04.3
11 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.04.9
12 Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 0.05.0
13 Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 0.05.6
14 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0.06.5
15 Charles Bradley Huff (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling Team 0.07.2
16 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 0.07.4
17 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Cervélo TestTeam 0.07.6
18 John Murphy (USA) OUCH Presented By Maxxis 0.07.9
19 Peter Latham (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling 0.08.2
20 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana 0.08.5
21 Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling
22 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0.08.7
23 Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 0.09.4
24 Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervélo TestTeam 0.10.0
25 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank 0.10.5
In addition to having 14 North Americans in the mix, it is especially cool to see the prominence of riders like Tuft, Zirbel, BJM and Huff (even though Hummer called him "Charlie") who continue to show that our domestic racing scene is bursting with world-class talent. The fact that I also predicted all of these guys to do well need not be mentioned. Oops, too late.

Stage 1 from Davis to Santa Rosa has the potential to be a really wild one. If the weather is nasty, I could see the race breaking up on Howell Mountain and then completely fanning out all the way to the finish. The only hope for a big sprint is if the field comes back together crossing Napa Valley before they get to the final short climb up Petrified Forest Rd.

The chances of someone local like Steven Cozza or Scott Nydam trying to get away early is pretty high but I think that there are enough big name sprinters like Boonen, Cavendish, Hushovd, Haedo and Freire to bring everything back in Napa or at the last minute in Santa Rosa. In this case, I actually see Freire coming through and taking his first Tour of California victory. I was a little surprised by his prologue time but he's been quiet lately and always wins something of note. This could be a good stage for him - kind of Milan Sanremo-esque with the final sharp climb and finish.

I've ridden most of this course and just really hope the conditions are decent and nobody comes to grief on the potentially treacherous roads. Twisty, wooded roads + Botts Dots + First big race + High motivation = DANGER. The finish has been a little tricky in Santa Rosa lately as well, as evidenced by the addition of "The Levi Rule" into the cycling lexicon. Hopefully everyone stays upright.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

Awesome. I've really been enjoying your commentary so far. And I'm looking forward to your reflections on a hellacious Stage 1.